Exercising musicianship anew through soundpainting: Speaking music through sound gestures

Bruno Faria

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (artistic)

4138 Downloads (Pure)


In this thesis I focus on soundpainting-mediated musical experiences. Proposed in the mid seventies by the American musician Walter Thompson (b. 1952), soundpainting is a conventionalized artistic practice designed to create artistic works in real time. Thompson’s definition of soundpainting as a sign language is central to the present artistic inquiry, based on different moments of artistic practice and on interviews with students and professional artists, and informed by an existentialist hermeneutic and yet pragmatic perspective. What does it mean to have an experience in soundpainting? Considering soundpainting as an artistic language, what does it mean to know and speak it? How is meaning mediated in soundpainting? What does a knowledge of soundpainting bring to classically trained musicians? Classically trained orchestral flutist as I am, my starting point has been the similarities and differences between the production and interpretation of signs as they occur in soundpainting-mediated practices and in personal experience of playing from scores and relating to conductors’ gestures.

The artistic, hermeneutic circle turns on transpositions across horizons of understanding, since in soundpainting one’s own practices are extended, and one frequently acts as instrumentalist, composer, and conductor. This is formulated as an example of artistic transaction, in the sense of acting across borders that usually separate roles. In addition to critical reflections on the indeterminacy of soundpainting as a practice and on the two performative perspectives possible in soundpainting (performance leader and performer), I explore soundpainting as an individual instrumental practice too. Although a particularization of soundpainting, this transposition from moments of qualitative transaction between two or more artists to an individual practice retains the significant aspects of standard practice in a soundpainting-mediated musical experience. In the process, significant opportunities were found to exercise different forms of embodying musical knowledge, wherein aspects of ownership and responsibility could be re-contextualized as different intentionalities (in the phenomenological sense) came to play. Through the exploration of such strategies for a systematic development of an improvisational mindset, it was also possible to nurture an empathic understanding of the activities of one’s fellow musicians (performers, conductors, composer, improvisers). All these findings speak to the all-important sense of presence in the moment of performance and can be extended to other forms of music-making, disclosing potential directions for further research on both artistic and educational grounds.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Malmö Academy of Music
  • Ljungar-Chapelon, Anders, Supervisor
  • Carlos Guimarães, Antonio, Supervisor, External person
Award date2016 Jun 3
Place of PublicationMalmö
ISBN (Print)978-91-7623-832-5
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2016-06-03
Time: 10:00
Place: Inter Arts Center, Red Room

External reviewer(s)

Name: de Assis, Paulo
Title: Prof. Dr.
Affiliation: ERC Principal Investigator, and Orpheus Institute Research Fellow


Also Included with the book: one DVD and one CD
Language: English
Public performance: June 2nd, 2016, 19.30, at Palladium (Malmö)


Supplementary Material:

Examples of the two different intentionalities described in the dissertation.
Examples of conventional delimitations explored in moments of ensemble practice
Examples of multidisciplinary cognitive challenges faced during performance.
Examples of performer’s responses as propositions.
Examples of nuanced gestural performance/interpretation.
Example from a rehearsal of temporal divisions to Etienne Rolin’s Erolgraphs

Example of analysis of solo performance structured in soundpainting terms.

Example of soundpainting-sketch flute practice at early stage.
Example of soundpainting-sketch flute practice at intermediary stage.

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Music


  • Soundpainting
  • Artistic transactions
  • Musical signs
  • Musical gestures
  • Music indeterminacy
  • Improvisation


Dive into the research topics of 'Exercising musicianship anew through soundpainting: Speaking music through sound gestures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this